Welcome to Zoom Date, our feature series where we get up close and personal via Zoom screen with our favorite celebs. They'll be giving us an honest peek into what their "new normal" looks like—from new rituals they've adopted since quarantine, to work projects in the age of isolation, to the beauty and health products they've been using to self-soothe.
If anyone says they have life in lockdown figured out, they’re lying. Take this interview for proof: Naomi Watts is one of the most beautiful and graceful women on the planet, not to mention a woman with infinite resources at her disposal, and even she admits that getting through the pandemic hasn't been easy. Her solution has been to take things one day at a time. It helps that the actress has been forced into putting herself first every once in a while. “As a working mum it’s hard to get it up there to the top of the list, but I’ve found myself in the world of self-care because of my business,” says Watts in reference to Onda, the clean-beauty platform she co-founded in 2016 with Larissa Thomson and Sarah Bryden-Brown. Since then, it’s safe to say that Watts has become something of a self-care expert. We caught up over Zoom to discuss the wonder of endorphins, the key to a perfect bath, and the value of saving old margarine tins with holes in them.
What has your life looked like since the pandemic began?
We were in L.A. to begin with because Liev—my ex, my kids’ dad—was filming there, and I had stuff to do in LA, and it was spring break. It didn’t feel like the worst place to be stranded, because I have a house and so it was okay, but we live in New York normally, and I just sold the house there. We’re in a beach town nearby now. It’s been tricky, the moving around, and obviously the fear that comes with that, but now we’re all sort of in place and feel settled. The schooling is over, which was no easy part of it for us and our kids. Now it feels like, oh, okay. Now I can have a call and say, “Here’s your electronics!”
Now that you’re sort of settled and the kids are out of school, what does your daily routine look like these days?
I wish I could give you a solid answer because it’s not a routine in these times! Everything just takes a bit longer right now because there’s so much uncertainty, and it’s hard to plan things, and everything feels heightened. Some days you just sort of know going into it, “Is this gonna be a good one or a bad one?” and it feels like it’s pretty much 50-50 right now. And I know I’m very lucky and fortunate in that I have a comfortable place to live and not as many anxieties and fears as many people out there, but it doesn’t stop you from feeling like, “Oh, god, when is this going to end? When am I going to be able to create structure and routine and know that it’s safe to go back to work?” But especially since George Floyd, this has been a time to just take it all in and rethink things: How am I contributing, what can I do if I haven’t contributed enough, and how can I learn and educate and be part of this important conversation? People are out there in the streets saying, “Listen to us!” and if it doesn’t start in the home, it won’t mean anything. Certainly, those conversations have been had with the kids, and I’ve taken them to a couple of protests now. People want to be heard and seen and have their bodies and voices in the mix of the story they want to tell and live as well.
I think it’s not unrelated to the fact that so many of us are stuck at home. All of a sudden everyone has all of this—
Purpose! Yeah, exactly. And that feels cleansing and purifying, and there’s the silver lining. It might take some time, and it might be uncomfortable for a while, but so be it. That’s what we need: a reckoning, a revolution.
What are you doing right now to take care of your mental health and avoid burnout?
I’m in therapy, so I do a call with my therapist every now and again. I’ve also found that there is no small talk in any of the conversations I’m having with friends and family. You’re just getting really deep and connected, even with people that you haven’t necessarily connected with in a long time, and that feels meaningful. That feels like we’ll take something out of this—not only the anxiety and the dark, depressing movements, but the connectivity that’s absolutely imperative to keep going, I hope that stays with us. It used to be, like, three emails before you could book a phone call, you know? Now suddenly someone’s Facetiming me, and I’m like, “Oh great! Hi!” I think that’s really good, I like that. You don’t have so much of these barriers in place that keep people away.
This time is definitely driving home how important it is to feel connected to one another.
Yeah, connecting with those you love and talking about it and owning it: “This sucks.” [LAUGHS] But it can also be good to just be home and feel. It is good to spend so much time with the kids, but it’s also terrible, you know? It’s like every single emotion feels extreme: when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad it’s really bad. I’ve found the best way to manage things is to not think too far ahead unless it’s good positive dreaming thoughts. This week actually felt like a particularly dark week. Getting the news that schools weren’t going to go back in full motion just feels like, “Oh shit, now we’ve gotta keep going with this plan?” it wasn’t easy for the kids, and I don’t know that they learned a lot. It wasn’t easy for the teachers. It wasn’t easy for parents who are still trying to maintain some level of business themselves. And I know that I have it a whole lot easier than most of the nation, you know? I’m very fortunate, and I’m still struggling. It’s a shit sandwich, and I wish we could just 100% say, “It’s a shit sandwich for this much time, and how do we make that work for us?”
The uncertainty makes it harder, yeah.
The uncertainty is so hard. You can’t plan because it could be this or it could be that or it could be this, you know? But it is what it is, and you have to just keep finding ways to keep going.
What else are you doing for self-care?
I love listening to a podcast while I’m cleaning or doing laundry. I love Sam Harris; he’s my favorite. Brene Brown, Tim Ferriss. And I definitely try to keep up the exercise—I’m a very active person, and it’s just good for my mind.
It’s crazy how much of an impact exercise can have on your mood. I find it forces me to get out of my head because I have to focus on my body.
It’s never become more clear that exercise and the endorphin rush is definitely helpful. I’ve experienced anxiety and depression, and I find that if I do a workout, it shakes the mood. I love Taryn Toomey’s Class, which is very animal, which is perfect for the time because she talks about just unpacking your demons and just flushing it out! She does these classes with fantastically chosen music that seems to tap into whatever you’re going through, and I always say you get to get your freak on and just go blaaaghghah, which I’m very willing to do. We’ve always done that in acting class, and it’s such a good way to release emotions. I also love a bath. I am such a bath girl. If I had my druthers, I’d have a bath at the end of every single day once the kids are in bed. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bath here.
I can’t imagine living anywhere without a bathtub.
That’s so good to hear because you’re American! I’m English, and in England, you have a bath before a shower. We didn’t have a shower when I was growing up—you’d have maybe one of those plastic hose things that you attach to the taps and it has a spray head if you even had that. Sometimes you’d just put a jug of water over your head. But lots of homes in America I’ve noticed don’t even have baths.
I know. My girlfriend’s parents’ house has no bathtub and I’m like, how?
It is my safe place, yeah. Onda carries lots of bath soaks. Goop has a good one; she has lots of different kinds that are for body aches and relaxing. Vertly does a good one. I like to give myself a good 20 minutes, because otherwise what’s the point? And I’ll put a Rahua hair mask or an Edible Beauty face mask, and that feels very indulgent, and I’ll listen to music or a podcast. And then afterward, I’ll use a body oil. I love Jao’s Goe Oil, which is really great for the cracked feet or elbows. Saint Jane does a fantastic CBD body oil. De Mamiel has a beautiful body oil. Herbivore coconut milk, I love that one.
What is it about clean beauty that appeals to you? How did that turn into Onda?
The idea of clean beauty resonated with me because it wasn’t just about feeling better and looking better, it was about doing better as well and educating people about removing toxins from the things that you put on your skin. We’ve sort of learned about that in the foods that we eat, we’ve learned about that in our cleaning products, and it should be how things go with your skin as well, your skin being your largest organ. I was also led there inadvertently with reactions that I’d been having with my skin. I was working long hours on a TV show at the time, and I would come home at the end of the night, and my skin was just itching and red, like rosacea. So my friend Larissa Thomson, who’s one of the Onda co-founders, started introducing me to these different kinds of products. And sure enough, I saw pretty much immediate results that were effective as well as smelling and feeling good. Also, all of the makers we feature are ethically sourced and responsibly packaged, so there’s the aspect of doing better as well. I think everyone feels like they want to do better now, and especially now.
Yeah, I’ve sort of been rebuilding my beauty routine from scratch and have started to experiment with clean beauty brands.
We recently created a thing called Onda Edits on our website, which is just to make it easier for the online shopper, ‘cause it’s overwhelming if you’re beginning in this category, like, “Oh my god, what do I need? I don’t know!” So you can say, “I need extra hydration,” and there’s one that will suit that, or “I’ve got extra sensitive skin,” or just: “I’ve never done clean beauty, where do I begin?” In that kit, there’s four different products—it’s a shampoo and conditioner, a toothpaste, a deodorant, and a body wash, so it’s not too overwhelming. And at Onda, they do virtual treatments as well, so you can book one, and then they’ll teach you how to use these tools and what products your skin might need. Speaking face-to-face with someone always helps.
What does your skincare routine look like these days?
Well, I won’t necessarily cleanse in the morning, unless I’m in the shower and I’ve just worked out, and then I’ll use a foam cleanser. Josh Rosebrook does a fantastic moisturizer with an SPF as well in it. And then a tinted moisturizer: Beautycounter has a thing called Dew Skin, which gives a glowy look, and Kosas does a good tinted face oil. At nighttime, you need to do a good cleanse, and if you’ve worn makeup you need to double cleanse—a good oil cleanser to start with, I love De Mamiel’s one, and then a foam cleanser is good. And then I start with a retinol. I love Marie Veronique products, she has a retinol which is really great for fine lines and brightening and evening the skin, and I use that once a day at night. Then a mist is great to open your pores so your skin can receive whatever you’re about to put on. Sodashi does a great mist. And then I love to mix a couple things in my hand—a face oil and maybe a cream as well. Joanna Vargas does a great night cream or Barbara Sturm. For face oil, Marie Veronique does a good one. Saint Jane has another one with CBD which is great for sensitivity. And I find I’m having a good result with lots of vitamin C products. Saint Jane has that, and Beautycounter has a good one too. A nice lip balm, Grown Alchemist has a good one. I like to rotate products, and I like to finish what I have, as well. I never like to waste.
Right. What’s the point of having beautiful products if you never use them?
Part of my childhood was I was raised by my grandmother, who went through the second World War, and she taught me about no waste, nothing gets wasted. She would save a margarine tub with a hole in it because it might be useful at some point, you know? She’d always say, “You don’t need an expiration date if you’ve got a nose!” We’ll visit, and I’ll go into her fridge and be like, “Nana, this is just chockablock with all these things! This is from 1997!” And she’ll go, “Well, does it smell alright? Then it’s fine!” She’s 95 in a month or so, and I’m still Facetiming with her, she does her yoga every other day. She’s such an Aussie battler.
Photos taken via Zoom by Cristina Cianci